Jack Nicholson counseled Michael Keaton on making flops during Batman

Keaton's advice to young actors is a little different from Nicholson's

Jack Nicholson counseled Michael Keaton on making flops during Batman
Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson Photo: Kevin Winter; Kevork Djansezian

Much about the movie biz has changed, but one thing that remains true–no young actor would turn up their nose at some advice from a legend like Jack Nicholson. In lieu of that (at least, at this particular Drama Actor Emmy Roundtable for The Hollywood Reporter), Michael Keaton is here to pass on his wisdom, though it may not apply to the current cinema landscape.

Discussing the kinds of projects an actor is offered after they hit it big, Keaton recalled: “In the old days, I remember I was in London with Jack Nicholson, we were doing Batman, and he was going somewhere, and he said, ‘Come along with me,’ which is an experience in and of itself.”

“So, we’re in the car and he’s talking about the movie. And we all knew it was a huge risk, and if it goes down, [I’d be] going down in flames and that’s going to be a big, hard recovery. But I also knew if it worked, it could change my landscape,” he continued. “So Jack says, ‘Keats, if this thing’s a hit, you can go out and do four or five flops and not even worry about it.’”

But the times, they have a-changed: “[Maybe] it wasn’t four or five, but it used to be you got away with three and it didn’t matter. Not now, man. You’ve got one miss, which is fucked up.”

As someone who has now reached legendary status himself, Keaton is now qualified to give his own advice. And rather than bother with a risky flop, his advice is more tried and true: spend time with the people who matter. “One of the reasons I laid low was that I always wanted to be a dad. And then I got the opportunity to be a dad, so I thought, ‘Man, if I lose money, I’m good with it,’” he said.

He added, “I was having this conversation with Bill Hader the other day, he was going through something and I said, ‘Dude, trust me. Hang out with your kids as much as you can for as long as you can. You will never regret it. You’re going to lose some jobs. It’s OK. In the long run, that’s the thing [that matters].’” You heard it here first: rather than risk a flop, just go home to your kids. Your reputation at the box office will thank you!

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